Body dysmorphic disorder sufferers are preoccupied with physical defects
BY DR. KOMOROFF Universal Uclick
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 5:06 AM
Dear Doctor K: My teenage daughter was diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder. Can you help me understand this condition so I can help her?
Dear Reader: To answer your question, I consulted with my colleague, Dr. Michael Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
People who have this condition are preoccupied with what they regard as physical defects. In many cases, this concern reaches delusional proportions. They see bodily flaws that aren't there - and they have little to no awareness that their worries are irrational.
People with BDD often become fixated on checking their appearance in the mirror, or they spend an inordinate amount of time grooming. They may focus on their appearance to the exclusion of everything else, including work or personal relationships.
BDD has characteristics in common with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders, or OCD. Like people with these disorders, people with BDD feel fearful that some harm will come to them from the defect in their appearance.
People with BDD often get cosmetic surgery or dermatology treatments in pursuit of fixes for perceived flaws. Sadly, their unrealistic expectations can lead them to feel worse, not better, since they see no improvement following the surgery or other treatment.
BDD increases the risk for suicide as well as alcohol or drug problems. That's because people with BDD have a high risk for also suffering from depression and eating disorders.
Antidepressants like the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine (Prozac) can help. Other classes of drugs may be helpful for symptoms, such as delusions. Psychotherapy is helpful for milder symptoms. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy can be helpful.
Above all, the goal is to help your daughter turn away from a preoccupation with her appearance and engage in treatment for underlying problems.
Write Dr. K at www.AskDoctorK.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut, Kansas City, MO 64106